Jillian Michaels Kickstart: Day 3 – On willpower, motivation, and habit

Wednesday 17, day 3 of 7

Three words to describe today: Motivation, Pret, ouch

How easy was the food plan? ✦✦✦✦✧ (Discovered Pret Italian chicken salad = OK for this. So great to find convenient, healthy options when you’re out/have no time to make food.)

How easy were the workouts? ✦✦✦✧✧ (Cardio is getting better but still killing my hamstrings. Lots of stretching required!)

Notable comments? Mid-week. Hang in there.

When I first started Jillian’s workouts, in January, I found out a lot about habits. As someone who is interested in psychology, I’ve read quite a bit about how to make habits, and why we tend to fall back into auto-pilot when things get tough.

Basically, long-story short: habits almost become part of our subconscious, and our bodies do them automatically, to save brain space for more complicated stuff.

This is why, when you walk or drive the same route home everyday, it’s not a struggle, and you don’t remember each bit of it in the way you would if you were finding somewhere new. Same for brushing your teeth, for example.

As soon as something becomes automatic or something you’re used to doing, it’s a habit, brain-wise. Reaching for that glass of wine come 8pm; eating pizza on a Friday; putting your workout clothes on when you get through the door and doing a Jillian Michaels DVD. That sort of thing.

Studies show that difficult/less fun habits, such as daily exercise, generally take longer to make than easy ones, such as eating a bar of chocolate every day at 3pm.

Various books suggest that you can change a habit in 20 to 30 days. Well, for me, back in January/February, it took 31 days – and a big dose of determination and doggedness.

30 Day Shred workout DVD

30 Day Shred workout DVD

I did the 30 Day Shred in 31 days. (It was first recommended to me by a few nice people on Twitter, including @pinkjellybaby and @Blonde_M – not sure if they’re still doing it, but they said it was a good idea!)

Anyway, I took the 30 days literally. I was fed up of feeling crap about myself, so I went for it. I took one night off one evening when I was feeling pretty ill. Every day save one, come hell or high water, I did that damn workout. I knew if I let myself take a break for no real reason, I’d just drop back into my old habits. So I didn’t.

I consciously tried to make new habits, without being too harsh on myself.

I gave myself a good thing to look forward to when I got home (a cool glass of water and maybe a couple of crackers), went upstairs to change into exercise clothes (meh), and did the workout (tough but satisfying). I did it whether I came home from work early, or whether I went out for dinner or drinks and didn’t get home until nearly midnight (yeah, nearly threw up those times. Nice).

I told myself that even if I didn’t want to, or couldn’t be bothered to do it properly, I’d still do it. It’s what Jillian (and the blogger Nicole Antoinette) rather American-ly call “showing up”. Such a powerful phrase.

I’m not saying what I’ve done is particularly amazing. None of this is particularly amazing. I’m not *that* smug, I promise.

I don’t have kids or anything like that to worry about. I don’t have big health problems or work night shifts. I don’t have to budget for every penny I have, or spend 2 hours’ one way travelling to work every day. I’m very lucky that the only thing stopping me is lack of willpower.

Equally, I know that some people – normal people, with jobs and responsibilities – run marathons and ultra-marathons, and climb rock faces and mountains, often in the face of incredible odds. Other people stick to incredibly restrictive diets ALL THE TIME, for health reasons etc. Hats off to those people. They’re the amazing ones.

But for me, those 31 days were significant. The first time I’d actually stuck to something physical like that, day-in-day out, for a month. Yes, I’ve done some hard stuff before (Cambridge finals are pretty demanding, as are job interviews after months of unemployment) but this was different.

This proved that me, serial sports and PE dodger, could actually work out properly and regularly, and not skive or make excuses. The inches I lost off my waist certainly helped motivate me too. As did Jillian’s no-nonsense kick-your-arse then tell-you-you’re-amazing attitude.

Discovering all these motivational slogans didn’t hurt either.

But I realised that willpower alone isn’t enough. Using the Shred, I consciously stopped it being about “wanting to do it”, and made it about “being a habit to do it”. If you wait until you WANT to, you hardly ever will.

And sometimes, that’s the only thing that works, when I think “DON’T WANNA WORK OUT TODAY”. “Don’t wanna eat the salad, want the chocolate”. “Don’t wanna get up, CAN’T MAKE ME.”

Sometimes, it’s the reminder that, that one time, I actually did it. Paradoxically, sometimes the only thing that keeps me going with difficult stuff is the idea that one time before, I kept on going. And then kept it up for another seven months, to today. Every day, I try to make sure that carries on. In other words: habit.

As this particularly useful quote says: If you’re tired of starting over, stop giving up.

Like I said yesterday: It’s about just keeping on keeping on.

(ps. Getting a bit more used to the food plan today. Have been sticking to 1,200 calories or fewer, and although I’m still a bit brain-foggy, it’s been OK. Drinking more water has helped, so that’s a plus. I did have to quite physically RUN AWAY from biscuits in the office though, to stop myself eating them all. Gah.

I also managed to watch the PASTRY week of the Great British Bake Off without going out to buy a chocolate eclair. Might have a cheeky one at the end of these 7 days though. Just one won’t undo a week’s worth of work, right?!!!)

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